Shelf Candy – Interview with KINUKO Y. CRAFT, Cover Artist for Midsummer Night

September 3, 2012 General, Interviews, Shelf Candy 1


Shelf Candy is a meme hosted by Maria @anightsdreamofbooks.  Click the button above to see what other covers are being featured this week.


This week’s Shelf Candy features the  gorgeous cover for Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington.  I first saw this cover while wandering the aisles at my local bookstore.  I loved its ethereal quality and sense of classic romanticism.  The artist responsible for this work is Chelsey Award winner Kinuko Y. Craft, a celebrated artist whose work has graced the covers of several of my favorite books.  I am excited to welcome Kinuko to the blog as she discusses her creative process, Jane Austen, and the artists that influence her.




SWR:  Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be an artist.

I  have been obsessed with drawing and painting for as long as I can remember.  They’re two things that have been my twins, my language, my best friends and my companions.  But I never really thought I was an artist. Then I went to the The Kanazawa Municipal College of Fine and Industrial Art without much of thought of doing anything.  Reality hit me hard when I graduated from art school and I had to leave home and become an independent person. I decided to become a commercial artist to support myself. I still don’t know if  I can call myself an Artist. It’s such a pompous and empty word, rather like walking around in a suit two sizes too large.


SWR:  Who are some of the artists who have influenced or inspired you?

I loved Italian Renaissance painters work throughout my childhood, perhaps due to the fact they were all so very well executed, beautifully depicted and such mysteriously narrative images.  I was fortunate to have seen them and they were known to me only because of my grandfather’s collection of art books. I consider myself as a some sort of Symbolist now. But I still carry the impact that I felt when I first looked at all of those pages of the beautiful images and colors of  the work of the Italian masters.


SWR:  How did you get involved with creating cover art and what was your first book cover?

I had worked with artists representatives always until 2002. Because I wanted to hide myself behind them. My first cover, I think, was author  Marvin Kaye’s “Incredible Umbrella” I shamelessly created a totally  insignificant painting!  It was 1979 or 1980….. or may be 1890. 



SWR:  How would you describe your style and how has it evolved over the years?

I started with a haphazard style after leaving the School of Art Institute of Chicago, then trying everything and anything for a while. My interest went from the Renaissance to Classical Romanticism to symbolism, while other people went to the Renaissance to classical to Impressionism and to modernism. When other people were in Impressionism, my attention was towards, Doré  Moreau, Klimpt, and the Pre-Raphaelites, etc. Now I consider myself sort of a symbolist. 



SWR:  What is your creative process and are there any rituals or routines you have prior to starting a project?

I completely immerse myself in the story, searching out any possible or attractive images that are triggered by anything I see or come cross. When something finally hits, I start drawing idea sketches.  It often takes many, many drawings until I finally find something that seems if it might work.  When I am finally comfortable, I make final, highly detailed drawing.  It is very often quite a long process, but I am the happiest person in the world when I finally find it or it finds me.  The rest is osmosis.



SWR:  How did you get involved with the cover art for Midsummer Night?

Midsummer Night was author Freda Warrington’s second book after her Elfland by Tor.  I finished the 3rd and last of the trilogy in February, The Grail of the Summer Stars. It will be published in 2013. For the work, I owe a huge debt to Irene Gallo, Art Director at Tor Books, who sought me out for the assignment


SWR:  Had you read the manuscript prior to creating the art and, if not, what direction did you get from the art director?
Yes, I read the manuscript start to end as I do for every cover assignment. I have had a great working relationship with Irene. She trusts that I will do something appropriate and has always left me to do my own thing.


SWR:  What was the single most important thing you wanted to convey in the cover?
An image that makes the viewers wonder and want to know about the story.  And it should be enjoyable for me to create it.


SWR:  What was the inspiration for this cover other than the author’s text?

The Author created the atmosphere, then with my imagination I made something visible.  The author’s thought might be different from that of the painters, for no two people have an identical imagination.



SWR:  You also created one of my favorite covers for a series of books I adore — The Barque of  Frailty (Jane Austen Mystery#6).  Are you a Jane Austen fan and what was the inspiration for this very dramatic and beautiful cover?

Yes, I am a Jane Austen fan and I love her novels. Justice is always done and good always wins. The story had many visually interesting selections.  I picked the one that most attracted my interest and my imagination served the rest.





SWR:  If you were given the opportunity to create the cover for any one book,past or present, what would that book be and why?

Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey.  It has endlessly fascinated me ever since I first read it.



SWR:  What side projects, passion projects, or upcoming cover art would you like to share with us?

I have been working on paintings for a picture book — The Beauty and The Beast — for few months,  which I actually started a few years ago and had put aside till early this year. The work must be finished early next year and I am hoping it will be published fall 2013.  The publisher is HarperCollins.  



And for fun, the Pivot quiz…

1.  What is your favorite word? 

     Primeval forests

2.  What is your least favorite word?

     Insensitive person

3.  What turns you on creatively,spiritually or emotionally?

      beauty (subjectively)

4.  What turns you off?

     ugliness (subjectively)

5.  What is your favorite curse word?

     Many, but all are unprintable, plus sometimes a couple of foreign words to supplement for a special occasion.

6.  What sound or noise do you love?

      The sound of wind passing through trees

7.  What sound or noise do you hate?

     Constant industrial noise.

8.  What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

     Maybe a musical instrument player, or perhaps a fortune teller.

9.  What profession would you not like to do?

      Cleaning anything, my own house especially.

10.  If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

     I want to hear “All your dogs are waiting for you, and some of the people you want to see.  By the way you may eat as much chocolate as you want without getting sick.”


SWR:  Thanks for coming by the blog, Kinuko!


Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington, TOR Books, November 2010


You can find Midsummer Night at the following links:



All images are courtesy of Kinuko Y. Craft and are not to be copied without permission of the artist.


About the Artist



Kinuko Y. Craft is one of the most widely respected and well known fantasy artists in the United States today. She considers herself a storyteller. Her past commissions have included paintings for the book covers of many well-known fantasy authors, opera posters, fairytale books and covers for many national magazines. During her career she has become known for meticulous attention to detail, a passionate love of fine art and a deep knowledge of art history. Her fairytale books are currently distributed in the USA, other English language countries, Europe, Greece, China and Korea. Her art is also widely licensed on calendars, posters, greeting cards and other consumer goods. Her work has been widely exhibited and is now in private collections around the world.

Ms. Craft is a graduate, BFA 1962, of The Kanazawa Municipal College of Fine and Industrial Art (known in Japan as The Kanazawa Bidai). She was born in Japan and came to the United States in the early sixties where she continued studies in design and illustration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a year and a half.  Subsequently, she worked for several years in well-known Chicago art studios. By the end of the decade her work was in wide demand and she had begun her long and successful career as a freelance illustrator. For most of this time she worked in editorial and advertising markets where her work regularly appeared in national magazines and newspapers. Since the mid 1990’s, she has concentrated on children’s picture books, fantasy book jackets and poster designs.Her original work and fine art prints are currently represented by Borsini-Burr Gallery in Montara, CA.

 Please visit Kinuko at her favorite spot:


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